How Event Organizers Can Incorporate Voice Technology

October 3, 2019
voice activation

Voice-operated technology is at its flash point. Innovations in smartphones, networked home devices, and voice recognition enable futuristic applications such as voice-operated Google search, and personal assistant software including Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

Google is one key beneficiary and driver of voice tech: Voice searches account for 20 percent of queries on Google mobile app and Android devices, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s Google I/O keynote in 2016 — and that volume continues to grow.

More recent data from Statista Digital Market Outlook shows approximately 260 million smartphone users in the US in 2019. One in two of them use voice apps, while one in three of those use them daily, according to comScore’s Future Of Voice Report.

Event organizers are taking note, as voice technology allows them to deliver personalized attendee experiences in a scalable way. We spoke with one search-marketing consultant and two event technology providers to learn how.

Consider The User’s State Of Mind, and Google’s Goals

Trade show marketers can increase the likelihood of showing up in Google by catering to voice searches. Google has recently introduced features such as the “featured snippet” and “people also ask” box as part of its goal to answer user queries directly on its site. Events can increase exposure and site traffic by answering questions attendees are already asking Google.

“To start, be clear on your audience — who you want to attract,” says Cyndi Masters, CEO and Founder of DBS Interactive, a digital agency in Louisville, Ky. “Let’s say you’re a furniture show and you’re trying to attract retailers. The first thing you want to do is keyword research to see how people are searching for those types of events.”

Masters recommends browsing the free and to learn how people are searching for events. Google’s “people also ask” box also gives a look into what phrases people are using to search. For example, if someone asks, “What’s the closest furniture show near Chicago this year?” and you provide relevant content to that question, you are more likely to show up in voice search and featured snippets in Google.

Success with voice search requires technical expertise, says Masters, since it relies on a code called schema markup that helps Google’s algorithms understand a website. “Many of the ad agencies [event organizers] work with are unlikely to have the technical expertise to help with this, so ask if they have the capability to do schema markup, she says. “Making websites ADA compliant also improves voice search, and requires a similar technical skill set.”

Voice Technology Provides Efficiency and Customization

Cvent incorporated a prototype voice experience using a giant Amazon Echo at its recent user conference, Cvent Connect. It programmed a customized Q&A allowing users to query Cvent’s supplier and planner networks with voice.

It’s important to ensure technology advances your event goals, says Jim Abramson, vice president of product management for Cvent. For example, if your goal is to free your event team from manning a concierge booth, voice tech could help — but consider whether it will engage the audience, or result in more confusion and questions. 

“Sometimes trying it out at a small event or as an addition will help drive adoption and ease attendees into the idea that they can talk to a machine to get their questions answered more quickly and efficiently,” says Erica Stoltenberg, corporate communications manager at Cvent.

Challenges: Cost and Technical Inefficiencies 

Exhibition technology firm EXPOCAD is in the early stages of integrating voice technology in its show design software. “We taught Alexa how to book and increase space size with voice commands in EXPOCAD, and showed it off at Expo! Expo! in December 2018,” says Rich Stone, CEO of ACT/EXPOCAD. “We programmed it so show management or exhibition sales could say, ‘Rent booth 117 To Sony Corporation,’ and it worked.”

A second, more practical application is for the physically impaired. EXPOCAD can operate on voice recognition using Microsoft’s Windows Speech Recognition tool.

One downside is that Alexa can be easily distracted with external noise. “On a show floor, you have to get pretty close for Alexa to hear — you and I [may] have no problem filtering sounds as a human, but Alexa does,” says Stone.

Voice recognition is also expensive to customize for individual shows; it took a few days for EXPOCAD to program Alexa to understand industry lingo and proper names. “We couldn’t just say, ‘Panasonic”; we had to program it,” says Stone.

Despite these downsides, Stone remains bullish. “Voice recognition is slick and it’s sexy,” he says. “There hasn’t been industry-wide proliferation [yet], but as we move forward, I would expect to see more of these type of applications on event floors.”

Have you experimented with voice on your show floor? Tell us how on Twitter, @tsnn_com_US.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.